Author : John Tippett
Helen and James Abernathy exchanged an incredulous glance as the reporter on the car radio began to lose her composure.
“Turn it up”.
“…must recognize that early reports during a crisis are often incorrect.”, the clearly shaken announcer was speaking in a voice that alternated between quavering and Walter Cronkite.
“You think this is some kind of jo-”
A searing flash of pure white intensity hit them both. It filled the car, their minds, and payed no heed to tightly closed eyelids, or the hands that covered them.
James reflexively slammed on the brakes, but it hardly mattered because the car had ceased running and was already halfway to a stop.
“James, JAMES!”, she was blind, at least for the moment.
“I’m here, it’s OK honey.” His hand groped out for her knee.
“My God James, what is HAPPENING”, now the quaver was in her voice. Her feet were on the dashboard, and James heard her mumbling a prayer, something he remembered from elementary school.
“I think that was an EMP, an electro-magnetic pulse. It can fry electronics.”, James said in his best professorial voice, trying not to convey his own emotions.
James looked at his watch, 5:01 now, and ticking. There was a reason he chose wind-ups.
“What do you mean? Are we under attack, James? Do you know what’s going on?”
He could tell her vision was returning. The gig would be over shortly. It has been 35 years of make-believe.
35 years of waiting.
35 years of preparation.
“Everything is fine, Helen”. He had already retrieved the small pressurized can of gas from under the steering column, and was fiddling with the release. ‘Come ON!” he whispered.
He had grown to love her, or at least care deeply, although that wasn’t in the Plan. He felt a pang of sadness (or was it shame?) for refusing to give her children. That would have been wrong.
His false features had already begun to peel from his underlying self. He didn’t want her to see him like this; not in her last moments.
After all, it wasn’t her fault.
It wasn’t her fault they needed a new home.